I keep forgetting. Every morning I wake up and think of all the things I need to do that day. My scrambled I-hate-getting-up-at-any-time brain tries to cheer itself up. I start figuring out when I can schedule my alone time with God. Since much of my life is either writing, ministry or free-lance computer work, I almost live without a schedule for my day-to-day work.
How do I stay productive? Not by setting aside a number of hours to write, but by making a goal to write or edit a certain number of pages. If it looks like I will easily reach my goal for the day, I set a new goal. As the day goes on, the bar keeps getting higher. Each time I barely jump over it. What starts out as a reasonable incentive becomes a stressful monster. Every day the stressful monster competes with God for my time and energy. Being a disciplined (though very flexibly scheduled) person, I also have a bar to jump for my God time. Typically I do not keep setting that bar higher throughout the day. Too bad for the both of us!
This week found me in tears as I realized how high I was setting the bar and how impossible I was making it to enjoy my life. I had a good, very spontaneous breakdown. I realized I was doing all this stuff. I was consumed with stuff. (Even my time with God – God knows I love it! – was becoming stuff). As I fell apart, I knew God only wanted me to enjoy Him instead I was obsessed with being perfect.
It is weird for me to think of myself as a perfectionist because it does not feel like I am even coming close to excelling in my life right now. I do not know why it is a strange thought since it has always been very important for me to overachieve in everything I do. Maybe it is weird for me to consider myself a perfectionist because I have always known I am very broken. Screwed up with only Jesus enough to repair me.
The last few years I have lived life so against the grain of culture there was no one to notice my overachieving if I was going to overachieve at what I was doing anyway. I knew “back when I had a job”, “lived a type A life” or “was rich” that I had “lived my life to make my own name great”; but in my current starving-artist state, I did not recognize the pressure I was putting on myself to excel.
Why? I must be one of God’s most broken creatures. What could I possibly do to change His mind about my competence?
There are all kinds of reasons I put the pressure on myself. Some of it comes from not actually believing my life will have been well spent if the only thing I do is literally enjoy God’s presence. Some comes from wanting to please the people I serve or work for. So many of them have come to mean so much to me. I want to please them because I love them. Some comes from the need to stay sober as a leader of a 12-step program. I do not like to refer to myself as an addict. But I will say this, as a former addict, sometimes staying sober feels like pressure. A lot of it comes from my desire to excel in the eyes of other people. I try to work really hard to prove I am not lazy in spite of what my checking account says. I try to make up for being on a low budget by working very hard.
Yesterday I re-realized pressure never comes from God. All the pressure around me, all the pressure I put on myself to maintain a certain amount of time alone with Him, all the pressure I put on myself to stay sober – NONE of it is from God. He just says to come to Him. He says to rest in Him. To enjoy Him. He has given me permission to spend as much time with Him as I want. He gives me freedom to spend as little time with Him as I want. It is I who needs to give myself permission to enjoy Him without feeling guilty for not being productive in the eyes of the people who do not serve Him.
It is I who have allowed the standards of productivity from my childhood to rule over what I call productivity today. It is I who have allowed my earthly family to rob me of the pleasure of enjoying my spiritual family, particularly my spiritual Dad.
I wish I could flip a switch. I wish I knew how to wake up tomorrow and just enjoy Him all day, but I do not know how to do it. When I think about tomorrow, I do not think of the time I am going to spend with Him and how much I am going to experience His love. Instead I think of the ten hours of work I am going to try to crunch into four. I think of everything I have to do, and I feel the pressure.
I wonder what it will take for me to actually learn to live like my life will be well spent if the only thing I do during it is enjoy Him. I know the knowledge in my head now, but what will it take to actually apply it to my life?
Where does the pressure in your life come from? Is there a part of you that feels like you have never done enough? Would you be content with your life if literally the only thing you did in it was enjoy God?